Genetically engineered brain virus can boost your memory

Need to cram for a big test? Trying to learn a new language? Just had a great vacation? Scientists have developed a procedure that may be able to help you remember things, as long as you're willing to inject a genetically engineered virus directly into your brain.

Remember how scientists can now selectively erase scary memories? As it turns out, chemical memory modification works both ways, and you can also use it to make memories last longer, at least in rats.

There's one specific enzyme in your brain, called protein kinase M ζ, that seems to control how well memories are preserved. A few years ago, scientists showed that inhibiting the enzyme caused memories to fade much more rapidly than normal, and they've just published a paper showing that it works the other way, too: making more of the enzyme causes memories to stick around longer than they would normally, even after they've already been created.

While it's suggested that this research could lead to memory-enhancing drugs, so far all the testing has just been done on rats and only on very specific types of associative memories. Oh, and there's also the fact that getting more protein kinase M ζ isn't like taking a pill, but instead involves custom-making a virus to pump out the enzyme and then infecting specific parts of the brain with it using what may or may not be a giant needle.

Still, we're just in the first stages of this research, and it seems pretty promising. And honestly, if someone said 'just let me shove this needle into your ear and inject your brain with a friendly little virus and then you'll have a perfect memory,' I'd probably let them do it, wouldn't you?

Science, via Ars Technica

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